After senior guards RJ Cole and Tyrese Martin decided to forgo their final year of eligibility and turn pro, coupled with the transfers of Rahsool Diggins, Corey Floyd, and Jalen Gaffney, UConn’s backcourt was suddenly barren. Not that Martin and Cole were expected to return, but with the surprise exits of Diggins and Floyd, and Gaffney choosing to try his luck elsewhere after three mediocre seasons in Storrs, this left the Huskies with only three guards on the roster: Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson, and... Andrew Hurley.
The emergence of the transfer portal has allowed teams to rebuild overnight. In UConn’s case, it was over the course of a week. Dan Hurley capitalized on the transfer market in a big way. Two highly-sought after guards — Tristen Newton (ECU) and Nahiem Alleyne (Virginia Tech) — joined the Huskies in April. Both commits bring vastly different skillsets to Storrs, but both provide a steady dose of excitement that should help tide Husky fans over until the start of the new season.
UConn was in dire need of a long-range specialist, and Alleyne appears primed to slide right into that role. The former three-star recruit from Buford, GA averaged a steady 9.7 points per game over his three-year Hokie career, peaking at 11.1 during his sophomore year. He’s started 84 of 90 games since entering college and will be fighting for a starting position with his ability to knock down shots from deep, which he did at a 37.3% clip last season on 166 attempts. Percentage-wise that was the lowest of this three-year collegiate tenure, which speaks volumes to how reliable he’s been. He holds a career 39% three-point conversion percentage with 153 made under his belt. That’s 126 more than the next highest career three-point makes among UConn’s returners from last year.
Alleyne has also done it at the highest level of college basketball, in the most clutch of moments.
VIRGINIA TECH— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 19, 2021
Nahiem Alleyne with one of the first cold-blooded shots of March pic.twitter.com/knpM7kb03Z
Alleyne is a very consistent and an efficient long-range threat. There were only three players on UConn’s team last year with more than 100 attempts from three: Cole, Martin, and Polley. Martin was by far the most efficient (43 made on 100 attempts) but Cole (59 made on 174 attempts) and Polley (50 made on 153 attempts) left a lot to be desired in that category. The addition of Alleyne immediately gives the Huskies a deadly spot up shooter they can run all over the court.
Something that also shouldn’t be ignored about Alleyne is that he has been producing these impressive numbers in an extremely competitive ACC, a conference that consistently sends at least five or six teams to the NCAA tournament and includes the likes of Duke, UNC, and Virginia. His production should translate to the Big East.
Advanced stats tell us that Alleyne had a fairly low usage percentage on offense, and the tape backs that up. That’s nothing to be worried about, it just alludes to his carved-out role and complementary skills within the offense. He’s not going to create a ton of offense by himself, but with some carefully crafted off-ball action, Alleyne can shine. Sometimes he can be a sort of perimeter floater, a guy who is always one second away from launching into his shooting motion off of a drive and kick from a teammate, some quick perimeter passes before the defense can adjust, or an offensive rebound kick-out.
That isn’t to mean he merely stands behind the three-point arc and waits for his teammates to feel him the ball. He just knows where to be on the court and is always ready to pull up. Virginia Tech also used his quick, spring-like release to their advantage by running him off simple pindown screens to get him some easy looks or more space to operate in where he could more easily create for himself. He was also sometimes sent around the court off of some double-screen action that when executed correctly, allowed him to naturally fall into his shot coming off and get a clean look from three. He’s not incapable of creating his own offense by any means, but that’s not his strength.
Sometimes when the defense was quick to recover, Alleyne was still able to flex his subtle play-making ability by driving past his defender and sinking a floater over the top or pulling up off the dribble for a bucket.
Nahiem Alleyne gets the 2 point floater for #16 Virginia Tech with 26 seconds left in OT and gets them the lead and following Miami’s Charging foul that was drawn by Hunter Cattoor (@CattoorHunter) and the subsequent free throws, won VT the game over Miami (FL) in a true thriller pic.twitter.com/Cxo36eHvn6— NCAA Buzzer Beaters & Game Winners (@NCAABuzzerBters) February 6, 2021
Another part of his game that might fly under the radar is his ability to make the right read in transition. He can stop on a dime and create an easy look for himself by means of a pullup jumper in transition, draw in the defense and make the quick pass to a streaking teammate for a bucket, or even simply charge the lane and throw down a nasty tomahawk jam.
Another aspect of his game that hasn’t been completely tapped into because he hasn’t had to deal with this defensive look very often is breaking a zone. Because of his quick release, comfortability easing into a short fadeaway, and savvy veteran decision-making, getting the ball to Alleyne in the middle of a 2-3 could be just what the UConn offense needs when teams start throwing this look their way. He’s also only averaged 1 turnover per game throughout his career which speaks volumes to his ability to not give away the basketball, even if he isn’t constantly handling the rock.
Defensively, Alleyne gives the Huskies some added versatility with his 6-4, 195 lb. frame and sneaky quick-twitch athleticism. If Dan Hurley decides to go with a four-guard lineup, which seems likely with the personnel at his disposal next season, he’ll be able to match up with positions 1-3 with relative ease. Alleyne has active hands and will usually take necessary risks both in on-ball and off-ball defensive scenarios that lead to turnovers more often than fouls. He gives a lot of effort and energy on this end of the floor, which is likely a big reason why Dan Hurley thought he’d be a great fit for his squad. Although he has a propensity at times to get overpowered by stronger and more physical guards, he rarely gives up easy buckets.
The only solidified positions in UConn’s starting five are Jackson, Hawkins, and Sanogo. After this, it is virtually wide-open. That leaves ample opportunity for a veteran like Alleyne to come in and snag one of those open spots right from the jump. He has all the ability to cement a spot among the starters, especially with his deadly three-point stroke. Jordan Hawkins can’t be the only one expected to hit from beyond the arc — lest we forget he only shot 33% from three last year. Jackson actually shot the three fairly well last season (36%) but will not be counted on to make threes consistently. This opens the door for Alleyne to either sliding into that 2-3 spot as a starter or coming off the bench to help jumpstart the offense, which will be needed often next season.